“I didn’t want any cat spoiling my hunt. That monster was out there, we told you, he was huge! Wish I never would’ve seen the thing now,” Mauro said. “I feel terrible about lying to Unc. I just froze up, I couldn’t cop to it.”
Don interrupted, “What I want to know is, how the hell did you manage to change all your vanes from orange and white? How do you even know how to?”
“Who do I look like, Fred Bear? I don’t. I hunt with carbon shafts, but I always bring a set of aluminum, too. If it’s really windy or raining, I’ll use them because they’re heavier. The shafts are identical, so I had the vanes made up with green and blue. That way, I don’t accidentally grab the wrong ones.” There was smugness in his voice.
Don looked at him, a mixture of respect and loathing. “What happened to the rest of the orange and white ones?” he asked.
“They’re history. I wanted to tell Unc, but then Troyer called about the operation, and even he seemed to be getting ticked about it … I feel really bad—I do. Farmer Troyer was a nice guy. Sure as hell wasn’t going to pay four hundo to save a cat. That was my cat, the thing’d be pushing up a pine tree,” Mauro said.
“People are a little different up here than they are in the three-one-three,” Don said, referring to Detroit’s notorious area code. “Thing wasn’t hurting anything. All this crap now.”
He suddenly hated that Mauro’s shoulder was touching his.
Ed Troyer drove his huge work truck away from the auction site. He’d found a fair price on a cedar chest crafted by Josef Stearns as well as some other tools and sundries. There was a comforter made by the Fairview Ladies Quilting Circle. It took Esther’s mind off things, and she was more than content acquiring a box of thirty-six mason jars and lids.
Esther Troyer sat in the passenger seat next to him. She was the Hardy to his Laurel, round with a moon-shaped face. Esther hadn’t been able to sleep since her return from Bay City, having to rush immediately to the vet fifty-five miles north in Alpena to be with her Lightning. The cat died twice on the table and miraculously had been revived each time. The vet kidded that Lightning now had only seven lives left.
“I still can’t believe poor lil’ Lightning was able to pull that arrow out all by himself. Doctor Cooley said that if a human tried to do that, why he would’ve passed out from the pain. Poor thing.” She shook her head dismissively, and her thin lips quivered.
Troyer pursed his mouth but said nothing. She waited before testing him.
“Edward? May I ask you something?”
He took a moment, studying the asphalt highway.
“I’m your husband of thirty-nine years, eh? Ask,” he said.
“Do you believe Aldo’s boys weren’t the ones?”
Troyer let the question simmer a while. He noted the fencerow on Grace Johansson’s farm. The widow’s white staggered gateposts looked like fractured limbs, the cables pulling away from them.
“Aldo loves his nephews, Esther. Lord, would you look at that gate? Can’t stand looking at that fence any more. Family is family. Especially to those people.”
“City folk, you mean? The downstaters,” she said.
“Sure, them too. I meant the Eye-tallians. Thick as thieves, they are,” he said, his creased face looking resolute. “But Aldo is a good man, and if he gives me his word, I’ve got to take him at it. He told me on the phone that one saw a trespasser. All just seems a little too … neat. Some folks don’t change. I don’t think Aldo would lie to me.” He groused under his breath, unintelligible rambling that Esther let continue.
He drove on, the load in the back of the truck bouncing up and down. He glanced once more in his rearview mirror.
“Can’t stand looking at that fence no more, that’s a fact,” he said.